Thursday, April 14, 2011
Firming up your manuscript
I'm not a big fan of editing. Give me someone else's work and I can do it - hey that's part of my day job after all. But when I re-read my own work my mind often reads what should be there rather than what is there.
Recently, I wrote a short story for a competition that was capped at 3,000 words. I decided to use a concept I already had for a novel and miniaturize it. That meant take the core concept, creating a couple of scenes to explain the plot (personifying a concept - a bit like Terry Pratchett by darker and less humorous) and tying up the conclusion.
I sent it off to my Beta and got some great notes, made her recommended changes and squeezed in just under 3,000 words. I was over the moon, until a thought hit me. Did she like the ending? She had commented on another short story that it felt like the end of a chapter not the end of a short story.
So I asked and she emailed back exactly that. D'oh! She thought there was more to come. So I called her and we thrashed it out. Of course she won - how can I argue with a former Uni Lit Lecturer? Besides, she was right.
Disappointed that I hadn't gotten it right first time, I wrote more, about another 400 words and sent it back. Yep, my Beta confirmed I now had a workable ending - and 400 words too many. So I called again and was told to cut one of two scenes. But I didn't want to - I loved them both.
So I was determined to cut more than 10% of my story without cutting plot content. I was mercilessly on the look out for superfluous words. And I found them! 400 of them!
I rearranged sentences more economically, I cut as many 'thats' and 'ands' I could, I culled unnecessary sentences - the frill bits.
I'm thinking I might impose a culling goal on myself from now on so I can get in and edit with focus.
So how do you get motivated to editor or writing, or is it something that comes naturally to you?
BTW readers - I promise this post was not just an excuse to post shirtless men =P